June 12, 2024

The Pizen Switch Times

Established 2021

Liquid Gold in Mason Valley

East Walker River as it enters the South West end of Mason Valley near the Old Pitchfork Ranch. Photo courtesy of Nevada State Parks.

This article was written by LM Wilkinson and published in the Mason Valley Newspaper on April 25, 2018.

When Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in the 1798, one stanza read: “water, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink; water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink”, he was writing about a wooden sailing vessel on an ocean of sea water.

For humans, access to fresh water is a primary necessity for life, secondary only to the immediate need for oxygen. And this subject of water is of utmost concern in Mason Valley, Nevada.

The river that flows through Mason Valley begins as snow/precipitation in the mountains and ends up (after many water rights owners withdraw their water in between) in Walker Lake. 

Using water rights is not an exact science, but Walker Basin Conservancy, Walker River Irrigation District, the City of Yerington, agricultural businesses, private property owners, etcetera, all have a vested interest in the ground and surface water within the Walker Basin. Water is not usually abundant in Mason Valley which is set in the high desert of the Great Basin. Rules and laws governing water use and prioritizing use have been established so that the rights of one user do not infringe upon the rights of another. Walker River Irrigation District employs ditch riders/tenders whose main duties include distributing water to water rights owners/users. 

Nevada began legislating water use as far back as 1866. Nevada Revised Statues directly addresses water rights and public waters in NRS Chapter 533; underground water & wells in NRS Chapter 534; and irrigation districts in NRS Chapter 539.